“Serendipitous Working: Discovery and Respect” – Justyna Jakubiec
March 31, 2021, was the day when something quite wonderful happened. Or, one should rather say, serendipitous. Serendipity is a notion that some students might have already had contact with; some students might have encountered this notion for the first time during the seminar session that took place on this day.
Serendipity, as originally defined by Horace Walpole, is the process when things are discovered “by accident and sagacity while in pursuit of something else” (Van Andel and Bourcier 2009, 27, cited in Darbellay et al. 2014, 5). Doing so, however, is never an easy and straightforward thing to do: one needs to firstly spot possible connections, accept them as promising, and then try to utilize them in the thinking process. To create something truly creative and to move certain discussion paths in new directions, requires opening one’s mind “to the methods of the other disciplines,” rather than simply bringing these methods together without further reflection (Darbellay et al. 2014, 3). That being said, to be able to work successfully within an interdisciplinary field, is to be able to embrace and respect the subtleties and particularities of specific disciplines one may not be based in.
Throughout the seminar session on March 31, those participating were given a chance to experience this subtlety of serendipity. The SILT group (Subjects in Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching) has shared with the participants a result of its work: an exhibition entitled “Designing for Serendipity.” The online exhibition has been built into a four-room digital space, allowing its ‘visitors’ to walk around using their computers’ cursors and discover what these four rooms hide within themselves. Interestingly, the whole experience of visiting this exhibition has turned out to be, indeed, a perfect example of a work based on serendipity. Visiting this online museum functions in a completely different way from visiting an on-site museum: one cannot see what lies in front, cannot freely turn one’s head to see the walls in one glance. In this case, doing so requires close collaboration with one’s computer and trust in the digital technology – trust that it will guide her through space in which visibility is highly limited. The majority of the seminar participants have encountered this online exhibition for the first time when the class was taking place: that means that they did not have any previous experience in how to navigate themselves within the online space of the exhibition.
It seems that the understanding of the notion of serendipity is twofold. Firstly, it allows for discovering new notions, thoughts and aspects through an explorative work. Secondly, it asks not only for the openness towards these new ideas; it especially asks for wise and respectful collaboration with the new topics and fields one is working with. When it comes to the SILT online exhibition, that means understanding what the online technology offers and allows for. All that in order to, precisely, leave the online exhibition with ideas that have emerged as a result of serendipitous discoveries.
- Van Andel, Pek, and Danièle Bourcier. 2009. “De la sérendipité. Dans la science, la technique, l’art et le droit. Leçon de l’inattendu.” L’ACT MEM, Libres Sciences. Cited in Darbellay, Frédéric. Zoe Moody, Ayuko Sedooka, and Gabriela Steffen. 2014. “Interdisciplinary Research Boosted by Serendipity.” Creativity Research Journal, Vol. 26, No. 1: 1-10.
- Darbellay, Frédéric. Zoe Moody, Ayuko Sedooka, and Gabriela Steffen. 2014. “Interdisciplinary Research Boosted by Serendipity.” Creativity Research Journal, Vol. 26, No. 1: 1-10.
*Image credits: StockSnap, Free Image on Pixabay – Laptop, Apple, Macbook, Computer, Pixabay Photograph, February 2, 2017, https://pixabay.com/photos/laptop-apple-macbook-computer-2557571/ (accessed April 14, 2021).